Phylogenetic analyses and molecular epidemiology of European salmonid alphaviruses (SAV) based on partial E2 and nsP3 gene nucleotide sequences


D A Graham, Veterinary Sciences Division, Agri-food and Biosciences Institute of Northern Ireland, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3SD, UK


Sequence data were generated for portions of the E2 and nsP3 genes of 48 salmonid alphaviruses from farmed Atlantic salmon (AS), Salmo salar L., and rainbow trout (RT), Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum), in marine and freshwater environments, respectively, from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Norway, France, Italy and Spain between 1991 and 2007. Based on these sequences, and those of six previously published reference strains, phylogenetic trees were constructed using the parsimony method. Trees generated with both gene segments were similar. Clades corresponding to the three previously recognized subtypes were generated and in addition, two further new clades of viruses were identified. A single further strain (F96-1045) was found to be distinct from all of the other strains in the study. The percentage of nucleotide divergence within clades was generally low (0–4.8% for E2, 0–6.6% for nsP3). Interclade divergence tended to be higher (3.4–19.7% for E2, 6.5–28.1% for nsP3). Based on these results and using current SAV terminology, the two new clades and F96-1045 were termed SAV subtypes 4, 5 and 6, respectively. SAV4 contained AS strains from Ireland and Scotland, while SAV5 contained only Scottish AS strains. Recently identified SAV strains from RT in Italy and Spain were shown to belong to SAV2. In addition, marine AS strains belonging to SAV2 were identified for the first time. Analysis of the origin of several clusters of strains with identical E2 and nsP3 sequences strongly support horizontal transmission of virus between farms and aquaculture companies. Evidence in support of vertical transmission was not found.